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Weekly Wrap - 21st Feb

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Despite having an impressive literacy rate, why is there less participation by women in the private sector compared to men?

Did you know that a lack of personal connections were one of the main factors which pushed women in Sri Lanka away from working in the private sector? Despite having an impressive literacy rate, and having more educated women than men, the percentage of women in the workforce is much lower. What should be done is to ideally direct female undergraduates towards employment opportunities in the private sector.

 

Public universities should be vanguard institutions, but… Our public universities need to start innovating in small steps. A research-intensive degree program where a few select students can engage in research from day one may be one such initiative. These students, for example, can be allowed self-study with the assistance of open online courses from world-class universities, and complete their degree requirements. Read more about the future of higher education and challenges for public universities in Sri Lanka, here.

 

Sri Lanka is going through an electricity crisis once again. This time around, it’s said to be once of the worst power situations in its history, with generation costs being among the most expensive in the world. Today, the country is facing a power challenge and the cabinet accepted coal and natural gas plants. But getting environmental acceptance for coal would be near impossible. Meanwhile natural gas import, storage along with accommodating Mannar gas has not even been discussed. Thus will require over five years with power costing minimum Rs.18 and Rs.15 per unit. Meanwhile, the country will have to resort to high cost emergency power purchases.

However, there is hope — solar and wind power can resolve this, if allowed.

 

How can a government incentivize its citizens?

Singapore's government is encouraging its citizens to make use of the economic downturn to learn new skills. As part of the city-state's just-announced Budget, all Singaporeans above 25 will get S$500 ($360) in credits under the government's SkillsFuture programme to put towards course fees, with mid-career workers getting S$1000. SkillsFuture was launched some five years ago, at first benefitting two million Singaporeans by giving them S$500 credits each. As of end-2019, more than half a million Singaporeans had used their entitlement, the government revealed while announcing the new top-up this week.

 

Listed plantations in Sri Lanka have lost several billions in six months. Revenue at regional plantation companies (RPCs) fell 3.6 percent to 28.47 billion rupees in the six months to September, while cost of sales grew 3.2 percent to 28.8 billion rupees, leading to losses at gross margin levels.

The plantations were privatized in the mid-1990s, after running large losses and the Treasury was forking out 400 million rupees a month to pay wages.

Despite the losses, plantation stock prices have risen 3.4 percent from end-March to end-December, although the entire stock market had risen 10.3 percent during the same period with elections and a general rise in business confidence. Why has this been financially challenging?

 

What more would you like to read about? Let us know in the comments.

The Ceylon Chamber of Commerce

Aisha Nazim

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